Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 20, 2021

Holding onto Baltimore

By SOPHIA LOLA | January 30, 2021

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COURTESY OF SOPHIA LOLA 

Lola explores where she envisions her future.

This past weekend, my pod and I went downtown to Fort McHenry. We ordered takeout at an Indian joint in Locust Point called Himalayan House, went to the playground and dog park across the street while we waited for our food, ate some awesome chicken vindaloo (it was spicy enough to make my nose run, which is weirdly the best sensation), and walked around the fort before heading back to Charles Village. It was freezing, and we were only out for a couple hours, but it was a ton of fun.

Later I realized that that was the first time this school year that I’ve done any kind of weekend excursion that wasn’t Hampden, Remington or the suburbs (what can I say, I love the Pikesville Trader Joe’s...), so I was then extra glad to have done it, especially because we almost hadn’t done something in the city! We had been saying that we wanted to get out of the city, to be in nature or something, even though we had only been back for a couple weeks.

And sure, it’s valid to get restless and not want to stay in one place, but we had been dismissing other parts of the city before finally deciding that Baltimore had something great to offer within its borders.

As much as I was glad, I was also disappointed in myself that it had been so long since the last time I had gone out and about in the city. From the minute I decided to go to Hopkins, I told myself that I wouldn’t be one of those students who never ventured more than half a mile away from campus. While I can say that it hasn’t been never, I certainly haven’t left Homewood and the surrounding neighborhoods as much as I would’ve hoped.

There are some valid and not so valid excuses I could give for why that is — say, a pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders — but ultimately they don’t really matter. Living in Baltimore is a big part of the reason I chose to come to Hopkins, and I simply haven’t taken advantage of it as much as I could have, should have and would have liked to.

And, more generally, up until the pandemic, I always kind of assumed that after graduation I would move back home to Brooklyn, or maybe to Philly, where my brother has lived since he left college. Or maybe I’d end up somewhere totally unexpected, like Chicago or the West Coast. I imagined I’d work there for two or three years before going to grad school somewhere. I love being in Baltimore, and I never thought that it wasn’t “good enough” to settle down and build a home in, but I personally just felt more compelled to live somewhere else.

But now I’m beginning to question that. If I leave right after graduation, then my time here comes to an end scarily soon (though admittedly not as scarily soon as it does for seniors), and so much of that time has already been stolen by the pandemic. It feels like I just got here but also like I’m already about to leave, which sucks. I want a do-over where the pandemic doesn’t happen. I want the end of college to come later. I want things to slow down.

I’ve also realized that I have more roots here than I thought, just like I have roots in New York. I’ve grown into an adult here (or something somewhat close to one). I have friends who will probably stay here, at least for a couple years. I could find a pre-grad school job here. I probably won’t see as much of the city as I would like to by the time I graduate, so staying would give me more opportunity to do that. Those are all meaningful things, all reasons to stay, in contrast with my reasons to move to another city.

So I’m probably less certain about what my post-college life will look like than I’ve ever been, even though every day it gets closer and closer. And it’s easy to feel like the pandemic has taken away a lot of time and experiences that can’t be recovered. But that’s only partially true. 

College may only last for a finite four years (something I’m still trying to accept), but this city does not, and graduation doesn’t have to be the ticking time-bomb I’ve feared it will. Whether it whisks me away to New York or Philly or keeps me right where I am in Baltimore, there will always be more time.

Sophia Lola is a junior from Brooklyn, N.Y., majoring in Writing Seminars. She is a Magazine Editor for The News-Letter. Her column explores personal growth, whether it comes an inch or a mile at a time.

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